By on November 25, 2014

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (4 of 30)

For all its foibles, I loved the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine in the Volkswagen parts bin. It provided an audible grunt you couldn’t get anywhere else for the same amount of money and, in its early days, was the best way to buy cheap torque without going diesel or turbo.

Thanks to a finer focus on fuel efficiency — a strength the five-pot did not possess — the base 2.5-litre is now gone. Instead, we have a new 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, dubbed 1.8T or 1.8 TSI, delivering the same amount of horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy than the outgoing 2.5 five-cylinder.

Our tester for the week, a 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI Comfortline (Canada), is the mid-trim option in the Golf lineup and equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Ticking off the optional Convenience Package adds automatic headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Climatronic dual-zone electronic climate control, light assist, Panorama tilt and slide power sunroof, and rain sensing wipers. The whole package before taxes and freight rings in at $24,590 CAD.

(For you folks living in Canada’s pants bemoaning my Canadian pricing, it’s hard to find an equivalent in the US Golf trim matrix that matches up, so you’ll have to do a little digging on your own.)

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (28 of 30)

The new 1.8 TSI is a fantastic little motor but does miss some of the charm of the old 2.5 inline-5. Thanks to the wizardry of turbocharging, the four-cylinder produces a very healthy 170 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. It also does duty in other Volkswagen lineup models, such as the Beetle and Jetta.

It won’t leave your wallet empty at the pumps either, returning 7.6L/100km (31 MPG) and running on regular gas instead of premium.

The rush of torque comes on fairly early and the most fun is had when shifting at least 1,000 rpm before redline so you can feel the torque through each gear change. This is a car that will actually reward you for shifting slowly and letting the revs drop a bit.

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (17 of 30)

The five-speed manual is crisp, notchy, and great for people who actually enjoy rowing their way through the gears. With solid feedback and tight gating, the gearbox might be a little too much for the novice driver though. I’d suggest the Fiesta with its long throws and lighter feedback for that crowd. But, for those who’ve already mastered the third pedal, this is as good a choice as any, except for the fact it is down a gear versus a few of its competitors.

Being the first Golf to ride on the new MQB Volkswagen platform also brings with it new characteristics in ride and handling. The Golf now rides like a much bigger car, smoothing out the bumps in the road while the body stays relatively stable. The softer ride does mean the Golf suffers slightly when chucking it around corners. But, unless you are trying to recreate the car chase scene from Ronin, you should be just fine.

There are two trends Volkswagen has bucked with the new Golf — one for the better and the other for the worse.

The first one comes down to design, as the Golf eschews the sloped rear glass used by the Mazda3 Sport and other hatchbacks in favour of a more two-box silhouette. This gives the Golf decent cargo space in the rear. Also, and this is the big kicker, Volkswagen hasn’t brought the beltline up to such a level that makes it hard to see out of the rear of the car. While the Golf gets a nifty backup camera hidden behind the VW badge, you don’t need to rely on the camera to reverse from a parking space. That’s a very welcomed surprise.

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (6 of 30)

But, the one trend where Volkswagen really needs to play catch up is from an infotainment point of you. Specifically, the Golf has a serious lack of USB ports, and by that I mean it has exactly zero of them. Instead, Volkswagen still wants you to use the proprietary iPod connector and a car charger that pops into the plug that used to be a cigarette lighter. VW — you should really know better.

Also a point of pain is the beige-and-black two tone interior available on Comfortline models in Canada. While the materials are top drawer, the two-tone scheme cheapens it all just a bit. Again, VW — you should really know better.

2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (14 of 30)

Even with these slight issues, the Golf is a solid contender (though, if I were at Motor Trend, I wouldn’t be giving the Golf a Car of the Year award). For those who enjoy driving but don’t necessarily enjoy the firm ride, compromised visibility, or stick-on infotainment screen of the Mazda3, this is your next choice. Also, turbocharging makes everything a bit more fun.

But, if you desire something with slightly sharper handling, USB ports, or an interior that doesn’t mutter how boring you are, there are other options.

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62 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Nice house, perhaps the area is a little flood-prone?

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    There is an adaptor you can buy (eBay) for MDI to USB. VW also sells a lightning attachment for $100.

    I don’t know why VW thinks people have old iPods or iPhone4s with no USB cord. Dumb.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      They put a very specific iPod prong in my car for direct connection to the audio system, like nobody ever used any other device for it. Of course it’s now useless. And it’s not a simple USB plug in, it’s like a 7-prong thing. I don’t think it would recognize a phone or Zune etc anyway, ugh.

      http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41tgj9J96cL._SX300_.jpg looks like this. NONSENSE

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    I find in my mk6 era Golf TDI (2011), the factory Bluetooth integration works excellent for my fancy iphone for streaming music like Pandora/Spotify, so I don’t know that a USB is entirely necessary anymore. I suppose the USB port is handy for charging cords, but I’m content to charge from the “cigarette lighter” port if I’m having a cord hanging around anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I think they should have a USB port over the stupid MDI thing that will only work with old iPods and iPhones that are pre-iPhone4S.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      And does it work with Android? Not everyone wants Apple.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The bluetooth obviously will. You can buy an adapter for the MDI thing that works with Android, newer Apple, or anything else.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          I think MDI is daft, and it’s nice to have USB chargers.

          But I also think that plugs are stupid for anything *but* charging, and Bluetooth is the Best Answer for phone and audio integration.

          (Yes, proprietary device-specific interfaces can do a bit more with catalogs and such. Which I don’t care about compared to the convenience of BT.)

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I agree

            Since I got a new phone (Droid Turbo), I don’t charge my phone nearly as often. Therefore, I have much less of a use for a charging aparatus in the car. Bluetooth does everything I typically need. I still use my old iPod once in awhile through a USB connection.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Disagree with the beef about the two tone interior. It’s a nice step up from the dour all-black (surely you weren’t hoping for an all beige interior?). However, I do wish VW would offer the dakota brown option Europeans get.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Normally I agree with you but in the case of the Golf I agree with the author, the black/grey works much better. There are too many different colors and textures going on with the beige, it doesn’t look cohesive.

      That said aside from the dates infotainment (which I don’t really care about) the Golf is a great car. I’m currently looking for a new car in this segment and have basically narrowed it down to between this or the mazda3 hatch. Waiting for the renegade to come out because I’m interested in it and not in an immediate need to buy a new car right now though.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Agree. I had a two-tone interior in a similar scheme in my 90S, and I also have two-tone in my M35, stone seats and lower panels, upper panels and dash above the wood is black. I like it and it’s different.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Also agree. I thought the criticism of the two-tone interior was a strange comment.

      Mark – would you actually prefer all black, tan, or gray?

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    iPod? USB? Are you sure it’s VW that’s behind the times? It has bluetooth connectivity, right?

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      An all new car with no USB is plain laughable. The new 300 has two in the BACK SEAT. And the Cherokee has a wireless charging option. Just five minutes with Uconnect makes the future inevitable.

      Any new car, especially an all arounder like the Golf, should be able to charge one phone and ideally a tablet too… simultaneously. There’s no excuse.

      Sync was hatched how long ago?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      My car has RCA jacks in the back!

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Can you get the 4/5 door in the US with a manual? Used to only be available with 2/3 door or GTI/TDI

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    With Audi doing well, this is exactly where I expect VW to go, with a car like this and these trim levels etc. Not “premium” but managing to stay well away from cheap.
    I am impressed that they have a turbo motor that drinks regular. The US market will like that.

  • avatar
    ijbrekke

    I like this car. Compared directly to the Mazda 3, it has far less road noise and a noticeable boost in torque. It communicates less in the corners, however, and I’m still instinctually scared of VW reliability (growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s has left a deep impression). I will be watching closely to see how the early reliability results shake out.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    This is a pretty decent product… if VW can bring the rest of the product line up to this level of competence (along with coming out with a decent CUV already!) they have a chance at recovery.

    In the meantime, you’ll pry my ’04 Passat M/T 1.8T Wagon out of my proverbial cold, dead, hands.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Golf has been competent for some time. It didn’t sell. The MkV Jetta/Golf Sedan was competent. Didn’t sell all that well. The B6 Passat was competent. Didn’t sell.

  • avatar
    JMII

    They focused on fuel economy but only put a 5-speed manual in? Where is 6th? Also a two tone interior is an upgrade in my book.

    • 0 avatar
      kcflyer

      After driving the new Fit for 1500 miles so far all I can say is don’t offer more gears for the sake of more gears. How are the ratio’s in this 5 speed? If they got that right then the total number of gears is not so important to me. This is not an 18 wheeler. More is not necessarily better

    • 0 avatar
      jrmason

      My 85 VW Golf/1.6 N/A diesel with a 5speed manual trans consistently netted mid 40’s with the skinny pedal matted to the floor. The wife’s 01 Beetle TDI with 5 speed consistently averages 46-48 mpg and will break 50 on the freeway if I keep it under 70mph. A 6 speed would benefit both cars, but good fuel economy is certainly manageable with a 5 speed with these cars.

      BTW, my 85 came from the factory with 52 HP. That car couldn’t get out of it’s own way, and was especially noticeable directly after I had been driving my 69 Chevelle SS, but I thoroughly enjoyed owning that car. The chassis held together quite well and needed minimal maintenance over the course of 270k miles, and the little N/A diesel engine was very simple and reliable. It was a great little commuter, and exactly what my wife uses her little Beetle TDI for (52 miles each way)

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      I’ve looked at the gear ratios of the 5 speed; the top 2 gears are both overdrives, so there’s no need for a “6th.” VW is said to have chosen this 5-speed because the ratios are more fuel economy-focused than their 6-speed.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Dammit to hell, 5MT?

    Nice fit and finish….

  • avatar
    bryanska

    +1 would bang, but only with a Pioneer AVIC.

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    I think most of the market for a manual Golf is addressed by the GTI because the pricing difference is not that large, and those people who want a manual probably want all that the GTI brings anyways.

    A Golf SE is $24.5k, while a GTI S is $25k. For the extra $500, you give up some gadgetry but get all that GTI goodness. Full feature parity costs about $2k-2.6k (Golf SE v. GTI SE, Golf SEL v. GTI Autobahn).

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    They are not passing on the savings of using the one size fits all chassis platform.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Lots of grumbling here there and everywhere about the 5-speed. I don’t find it to be an issue. The engine has a flat and broad torque curve and is pretty calm and quiet on the freeway. I don’t know what real benefit a 6th gear would have in everyday driving. This isn’t a Fit, which apparently needs an 8 speed manual given the ratio spread.

    As the owner of a 5-cylinder VW, it’s nice to see some appreciation for it. I was biased to like this review from the first paragraph. That said, the 1.8 is a remarkable improvement over the 5 in just about every way except audible personality. We’ll see how reliable it is.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      Well, highway cruising at 80+ mph could result in higher-than-desired RPM’s.

      Booooo!

      Otherwise, nice car.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “Well, highway cruising at 80+ mph could result in higher-than-desired RPM’s”

        True. But unlike a Fit this is a quiet car, so it may not be noticeable or objectionable. My VW with the 5 cylinder is turning at about 4000 rpm at 80mph, but the engine is nearly inaudible and it gets the same mpg as the 6spd auto that would let it loaf at a lower rpm. Plus, it is sitting in the heart of the power band at freeway speeds so I don’t need to downshift to get around people.

        The 1.8TSI is more refined than the 5, so I’m guessing it would be even less of an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        It doesn’t.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    I drove into work today in my ’98 A4 (5 speed and 1.8T 150hp) today. Black with black/white interior, so I am disposed to like the color scheme, but definitely would want a sixth gear.
    More than that, I’d like better than VW reliability, or more realistically, at least economic repairability. My coworker’s daughter has a 4 YO Jetta with the central locking kaput. Dealer wants ~$2500 to repair/replace.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Current VW/Audi reliability is better than 1998 VW/Audi reliability, and one central locking repair is a single data point when it takes hundreds or thousands to get a valid estimate of vehicle reliability.

      Every single VW article we have to go through this…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      So don’t go to the dealer. What could possibly cost $2500 to fix in a central locking system? It’s not rocket surgery.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Re: central locking system. Damned if I know why it costs that much. Sounds like the dealer basically wants to reinstall every part of it. That’s all I know. That’s the problem with rare but costly repairs. We remember them, not what didn’t fail.

        Re: 98 Audi reliability. I am still driving mine because the stars aligned with this one – tolerances, care in assembly, component materials better than minimum acceptable….

  • avatar
    Jimal

    For those of you grousing about the 5-speed, I have a 2014 Jetta with the same drivetrain and I assume the same gearing. The spacing between ratios is pretty wide. Wide enough that 5th gear is a pretty large overdrive. I haul the mail with my Jetta and I don’t miss 6th gear… unless I’m driving it back-to-back with my wife’s Passat TDI, which has the 6-speed. Damn muscle memory.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      LOL – I have that problem when I go between my BMW and my Abarth. Oops – I really don’t want to go into reverse at 60mph.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      6-speeds and CVTs are most useful in Hondas and other cars with a torque curve that resembles a dot-com stock chart. But in a VW turbo, not so much.

      I recently drove a Passat 1.8 TSI, and this is not an engine that craves constant gear changes or high rpm. What it craves is time in the 1500-4000 rpm range, like a 1980s Oldsmobile V8. Five ratios are plenty for this, in fact one could probably manage surprisingly well with four or even three. We did it not so many years ago, and with much weaker engines.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    I test-drove an S model a couple months ago when I was looking for a new car and walked away VERY impressed. For a smidge under $22k, you’re getting a 95% approximation of an entry-level 3/last-gen C-Class. Nice design inside and out, smooth powertrain, and a general sense that you’re driving something a couple segments up.

    The only problem is that VW is leasing them like BMWs. With $1k down, the 4-door auto S model on a typical 36 mo/12k mi lease would have a $400+ monthly payment. If that seems insane, look at the lease “offer”: 2-door base manual, $0 down, $319/mo. plus tax.

    Were I buying, though, the Golf would be a no-brainer in that price bracket.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      VW is being very short sighted with their Golf lease numbers. With all the accolades, people are somewhat paying attention, but the few who are getting to the dealers are finding a similarly equipped Jetta leasing for $100 less per month. Get the lease rates between the Golf and Jetta equal or near equal and they won’t be able to keep the Golfs in stock. And isn’t the point to sell cars?

  • avatar
    KevinC

    My GF just traded her ’09 Jetta TDI (DSG) in on a new Golf 7 TDI, 6MT. It’s an awesome car. We’ll be taking its first road trip on Thanksgiving day to the south end of Arizona, about 3.5 hours each direction. Really looking forward to it.

    Hers is the mid-level US trim, or SE. One nice thing VW did was allow the “lighting package” – including adaptive xenons, that are the best I’ve ever seen – to be ordered as an option at all trim levels. In the past, this is the kind of thing you’d have to buy the highest-end model to get. And it includes the upgraded Fender audio system, which is plenty decent.

    My gripe about the infotainment system is the chintzy low-res 5.8″ screen that some bean counter deemed sufficient for the NA market, saving a few bucks over the nice 8″, higher-res screen that Europe gets. Brutal. Lack of USB is puzzling, but as others have pointed out, there are simple solutions. As for Bluetooth replacing the need for a wired connection, I disagree – you don’t have the same ability to navigate your phone’s content with BT as you do with a wired connection. The MDI cable isn’t even included with the car, it’s an “accessory” item, which is a travesty. Get the salesman to throw one in before leaving the stealership.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    For the record, 80 MPH in 5th gear works out to just about 2,400 RPM, not much different than 6th gear in my wife’s Passat TDI.

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